Day 6: How to Know the Difference Between Inspiration and Indoctrination

31 days final big button

School options can feel like an infomercial. Have you ever watched a 30-minute pitch for a shiny new juicer on TV? You’re captivated by the wholesomeness, the nutritional value, the way this machine is going to makeover your life for the better and cure disease and make you look like a supermodel.

We don’t realize that the juicer will get clogged every other use and that it’ll take fifteen minutes to clean the parts and that we’ll use $10 worth of organic produce per juice. We fail to see these pricey, life-changing machines might begin to gather dust and finally end up in a yard sale.

Why? Because we only see part of the story. We become inspired and then we become convinced and then that conviction turns into a mandate. We must get the juicer. 

Options that start out as inspiring and encouraging can sometimes turn bossy and demanding. Indoctrination has a way of inciting our emotions while simultaneously shutting down our brains. I don’t mean to be harsh. I write from experience. Also? I own a juicer.

Books, conferences, blogs, experts — they wouldn’t have any persuasive power if they didn’t have an underlying agenda. Agendas aren’t a bad thing. If we’re trying to influence others, we have to operate from a place of passion and presupposition. But sometimes we’re so persuaded by the virtues of a certain way of doing school and how well it’s working for others that we fail to see the pitfalls and real-life variables.

We forget that there’s no perfect way.

I once sat in a homeschooling workshop and listened to a speaker issue some very unsettling generalizations about what kids learn {and don’t learn} in public-school literature classes. She spoke with authority and a veneer of expertise. But I almost walked out of the session because I had first-hand knowledge that her generalizations were untrue.

But what if I hadn’t known any better? What if I’d been a newbie parent? I might have made a hasty decision fueled by fear and misinformation.

It’s good to do research. It’s a lovely thing to become inspired. It’s freeing to make a choice and feel confident in it.


But it’s not fine to be driven by fear, exclusivity, self-righteousness, or a city-on-a-hill mentality. It’s not okay to persuade others using these lesser motivations into one option over another option. I’m not singling out one camp. Persuasive arguments and overstatements abound from every camp and all the subsets within each camp — from the virtues of homeschooling to the must-ness of public schooling to the private schools that guarantee to graduate smarter, safer kids.

Desperation makes us vulnerable. And when our most precious commodity is at stake — our children — it’s easy to get swept into a way of doing school that makes it a savior instead of an option.

Ask me how I know.

I wish I’d tucked away the books and the experts and simply prayed more. I wish I’d used the God-given common sense that my husband and I both possess instead of getting caught up in idealism and educational utopias. Though I don’t regret our choices and I have seen how God is using all the ways we’ve done school, I simply wish I’d proceeded differently, trusting that Jesus would gently lead us and that He didn’t need the help of educational evangelists.

Isaiah 40:11 is one of my favorite promises from God to parents:
We can rest in that promise. And we can be thankful that He doesn’t lead with fear, manipulation, statistics, or infomercials. He leads with gentleness.



When is a time that inspiration shifted into indoctrination for you? {Also — have you ever bought something off an infomercial?}

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here. And to read the other posts I’ve written on topic of schooling, you can go here and find them all in one place.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.


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  1. says

    I love that scripture! God gave it to me at a time when my children were very young and the church was putting a lot of demands on me to go “out there” and do work for the Lord. My heart was telling me that I was in a season of staying home and that my work for the Lord was to disciple my children, but the pressures to “give back” and “go out into the harvest field” were almost overwhelming. I knew I couldn’t do both. The Lord used that scripture to confirm that my heart was in the right place and to follow where He was telling me to go. Now they are grown and I’m so glad I allowed Him to gently lead me while I had young!!!

  2. says

    Your words this month are so timely and are resonating deeply with me! I am currently homeschooling my kids – 1st grade, kindergarten, and then we have a toddler who likes to destroy and deconstruct while we’re doing that. 😉 I’m on the road most weekends and throughout the summer – sometimes with children in tow, other times without – as a worship leader and songwriter. Our original decision to homeschool came out of a desire to simplify our lives. We started our oldest in public school (a wonderful one, by the way!), but after a month, realized that it complicated our life as we knew it in many ways. We changed to homeschooling and it has given us 2 more years of flexibility to bring our children on the road with us and let that be so much of their education. They’ve been all over the world and we’ve had a sweet time of it. This year, I have so much fear about next year. (Why worry about tomorrow??? Sounds familiar…) I feel at a total crossroads with our lives and our work. As they progress in elementary school, as I have curriculum for multiple children, as my own work/call/vocation develops, I feel like I need to make a choice as to whether or not we are an all-in-homeschool-family and we’re no longer on the road quite the same way. I know that no matter what school we choose, there will be adjustments in each season. I have had a difficult time locking guilt and pride out of the equation. I’m anticipating missing my children next year, though I feel like it is time to transition them to public school. I’m feeling a desperate need for some mental rest that has been nearly impossible to find with us on top of each other daily. I’m feeling guilty about homeschooling one and not the others – as if they should all get the same formula. I’m feeling my pride rear its head when I think about folks potentially saying “I wondered how long until you’d cave”. All of these are terrible reasons to make a decision, but I’ve had a hard time not being weighed down by all of it. BOOM. You wrote, “I wish I’d tucked away the books and the experts and simply prayed more.” BOOM. Thank you for an amazing reminder of the Lord’s hand in all of this! A duh moment for me. I’ve written so much… thank you. Thank you for allowing us into your journey.

  3. Sarah Jo says

    Educational evangelist is a perfect descriptor! Either I elevate them to that status or they proclaim the title for themselves. I want to do what’s best for our family and it’s hard to sift the wheat from the chaff when you are just starting out. I am grateful for the insight to tuck away the experts and pray. Too often I scurry and research when all the while, my heart is begging for rest in the One who gives freely.


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